A life-size apple orchard, a food truck and fajita cart, a touchscreen pollinator habitat game — new children’s museum-quality exhibits are coming to Pollinator Paradise.
The grand opening of the Pollinator Paradise addition to the Dickinson County Nature Center in Okoboji is set for Saturday, Nov. 16. A ribbon cutting will be held at 10 a.m., and the nature center will be open to the public until 4 p.m.
“The nature center staff traveled to see the exhibits in fabrication at Heartland Scenic Studio in Omaha, and we had so much fun trying everything out,” said Kiley Roth, community relations coordinator. “We know that if we had that much fun with the exhibits as adults then our visitors of all ages are going to enjoy them even more.”
Pollinator Paradise is a $1.2 million donor-funded project that began at the Dickinson County Nature Center in 2017, with construction completed in March 2018.
“The goal of Pollinator Paradise is to educate while people are having fun,” Roth said. “We want visitors to learn that one in three bites of food that we take is due to pollinators, and without them we wouldn’t have foods that we love such as apples, blueberries, almonds, avocadoes and coffee. Pollinator populations are decreasing, and it is up to us to help bring them back.”
Inside Pollinator Paradise, visitors will see a life-size apple orchard where kids can dress up as a blue orchard mason bee and collect faux pollen to launch into the stigma of a flower and watch as it moves from tree to tree with the help of bees.
Then they will be able to play the role of cook inside a food truck to create faux meals using pollinated ingredients.
In the Magic Monarchs exhibit, guests will be able to see the live monarch life cycle in the summer and also create symmetrical butterfly wing designs using colorful tiles and a mirror.
“Our human-sized honeycomb climber has been a hit since it was installed, and additional education about honeybees will be added,” Roth said. “We will also have honeybee costumes for kids to wear to immerse themselves even more in the experience.”
The Build a Pollinator exhibit features a butterfly, moth, beetle and bee body that visitors will finish by selecting antennae, wings, legs and even a proboscis — which is what pollinators use to drink nectar.
Save the Pollinators will be a digital game where people of all ages can create a pollinator garden. They will select the type and amount of flowers and grasses for a garden plot and watch how those choices impact the population of pollinators throughout the seasons.
“We’re so excited for these exhibits to be installed, and we can’t wait for the public to see them during our grand opening Nov. 16,” Roth said.
Following the grand opening, Pollinator Paradise will be open during the Dickinson County Nature Center’s regular operating hours 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, year-round.
Donations are still being taken to for the Pollinator Paradise project, and you can make a tax-deductible gift to the Conservation Foundation of Dickinson County. Click the donate button at the bottom of the page and write “Pollinator Paradise” in the notes to seller section.